Former Chilean dictator Pinochet dies at 91

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Monday, December 11, 2006

A map showing the location of Chile

The former Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, died yesterday in a military hospital in Santiago de Chile.

Pinochet died at 2:15 p.m. (1715 GMT), surrounded by his family. A brief announcement by the hospital said Pinochet's condition had worsened suddenly following a heart attack on December 3. Earlier in the week he was reported to be recovering from the heart failure.

In 1973 Augusto Pinochet took power in a US-assisted coup against Chile's democratically elected president, Salvador Allende Gossens, who died in the first hours of the military takeover. His rule of terror, which he maintained by silencing all opposition, lasted 17 years and produced a national trauma that has still not fully healed.

A few hours after the dictator's death, the Chilean government spokesman, Ricardo Lagos Weber, announced there would be no state funeral or national mourning. But the government authorized the flying of flags at half-mast on military buildings, and Pinochet's funeral will be performed with military honors. Chile's president, Michelle Bachelet, will not attend.

Within hours of the news yesterday, thousands of people gathered at Plaza Italia to celebrate the ex-dictator's death. There was a jubilant carnival atmosphere in the streets as people merrily waved flags, sang songs or drank champagne. Later on, there were reports of clashes with police firing water cannon and tear gas at the crowd.

A smaller group of right-wingers mourned Pinochet's passing outside the Military Hospital, clutching pictures of the dead dictator. "It is very sad, because it is as if we were left orphans," one Pinochet supporter told the press.

But many of Pinochet's opponents are angry because of his impunity during his lifetime. "What saddens me is that this criminal has died without having been sentenced", said Hugo Gutierrez, a human rights lawyer.

During Pinochet's dictatorship, established in 1973 by means of a coup de état, and later maintained through the use of police and military forces, curfews and state terrorism, thousands were killed or disappeared, and in later years his image was further marred by reports that he had stolen large amounts of money held in foreign bank accounts and that he had been engaged in cocaine smuggling.

Accused of dozens of human rights abuses, the ex-dictator was never tried for these crimes on the pretext of his frail health, despite repeated international attempts to take him to court.

The late Augusto Pinochet

There are a number of ceremonies to be held at Santiago, Chile, on December 12th. And there have been a number of clashes between the "momios" (right-wing pro-dictator sectors of the nation) and anti-pinochet manifestants, however, violence has not escalated to a concerning degree

Related news

"Former Chilean President Pinochet suffers heart attack" — Wikinews, December 3, 2006

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